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Behavioral Identification Can Help Stop Terrorists

Behavioral Identification Can Help Stop Terrorists

The effective use of multiple layers of intelligence gathering, including existing behavioral identification programs, could have excluded Farouk Abdul Mutallab from travel before he got anywhere near Northwest Flight 253.

So says University at Buffalo behavioral scientist and security researcher Mark G. Frank, PhD, who explains, that although Mutallab got through some security levels, "Behavioral science techniques could have detected him once he got to the airport."

Frank says, "There have been many scientific advances in technology coupled with understanding such people and their behavior - and programs exist that put that into action - to help identify them. Unfortunately, they are not being used widely enough."

Frank, who has advised on behavioral identification programs with the Department of Homeland Security, agrees with security experts who maintain that security is best achieved in a layered approach to the examination of would-be airline passengers.

"No single security technique, on its own, is a panacea, although that would be great," Frank says. "But no technique need be 100 percent accurate to be deployed effectively. Each imperfect layer complements the next because the goals of security screening are actually more modest than people assume.

"The goals are, first, to employ intelligence and investigatory processes to dissuade or disrupt a would-be terrorist from traveling at all," he says.

If a terrorist suspect gets through the first layer of security and travels anyway, Frank says, then the goal is to force him or her into a group marked for intense secondary screening.

"At this point," Frank says, "there exist excellent scientific techniques to spot such suspects, and they don't employ ethnic screening or the random screening of passengers, processes that are not effective and to which Americans object.

"We ignore these scientific techniques at our peril," he says.

Behavioral science

"Behavioral science techniques could have prevented Farouk Abdul Mutallab from boarding Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day, says UB security researcher Mark Frank. (Credit: Image courtesy of University at Buffalo)"

Source: University at Buffalo

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